Pieter Geyl the Napoleonist, For and Against

Mark Hay (King's College London)
17 November 2016

Pieter Geyl in Britain, 1914 - 1935

Pieter Geyl the Napoleonist, For and Against 

Fifty years ago, on 31 December 1966, Pieter Geyl passed away. He was arguably one of the most internationally known historians from the Netherlands, and one of the most controversial at that. Having come to the UK as a journalist in the first place, he started his academic career at UCL in the aftermath of World War I, with the first endowed Chair for Dutch Studies in the Anglophone world (1919). Known for his re-interpretation of the 16th century Dutch Revolt against the Habsburgs as well as for his political activism in favour of the Flemish movement in Belgium and the ‘Greater Netherlands’ idea, and his debates with British historians like Arnold Toynbee, he left his stamp on the British perception of Low Countries history, before leaving London in 1935 to accept a Chair in Utrecht.

The department and libraries he built up at UCL and former Bedford College remain at the heart of the IHR collections to the present day and make London one of the largest centres for the study of Low Countries history and culture outside of the Low Countries. On the occasion of his fiftieth obit, as well as the approaching centenary of his nomination and the foundation of Dutch Studies in Britain, this symposium aims to re-examine Geyl’s time in Britain and shed new light on his multifaceted work as a historian, journalist, translator, activist and homo politicus, his contemporary networks, as well as on his lasting legacy on British views of Dutch and Belgian history.

The symposium is organised by the Institute of Historical Research and University College London with the generous support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Brill and the Association for Low Countries Studies. 

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